This is exactly why Romney should do what he hasn’t quite dared yet: run as a Mormon, and as himself. Romney, formed deeply by his faith and his successful family life, is a temperamental rather than ideological conservative. He is the product of the Mormon American subculture that is housed in the Mountain West. The culture, ethos, and governance there produces cities where middle class families thrive, and where divorce and dysfunction are low. Socially, if not theologically, Mormons are a modus vivendi between Mainline Protestantism and Evangelicalism.

And thus they are a natural successor class to the WASPs in the Republican Party. In fact, they may be an improvement. The Mountain West is a rich source of Republican leaders, a moderating check on the political and ideological excesses of Evangelicalism, and a wellspring of religious sensibility for an American culture that believes in material progress and prefers pro-family sentiment to pro-family doctrine. These are all the features that Mainline Protestant elites brought to the GOP, but in Mormon America they are combined with a frontier-style relish for competition and entrepreneurship, and a more exalted view of family formation. Mormons are America’s more adventurous gentry class.

Trump thrives in the chaos of a party that has no natural class of leaders. He is an anti-hero who has crippled the candidates who would have hurt Mitt Romney with their ideological attacks. Trump’s rise is enough to scare the party’s WASPs and its donor class into conceding real leadership to Romney in this race and beyond.